If you’ve never been a grant reader before, I highly recommend that you volunteer for the next available opportunity. No other single experience can better prepare you to become a successful grant writer.

Having been a reader for a national grant program recently, I was surprised by the number of proposals that left me shaking my head. Reading other people’s proposals is a surefire way to learn what works—and what doesn’t—when it comes to applying for technology grants.

Here are eight simple dos and don’ts, based on my own experience as a reader:

1. Don’t beg. There are right and wrong ways to ask for money. The right way makes a strong case for need, without making the applicant appear desperate. One applicant wrote, “Please consider our application as one that is sincere when we say, ‘We’re here for the kids.'” Yet, isn’t it safe to say this maxim would apply to any of the other proposals as well?

Funders make decisions with their heads, not with their hearts. Offering your best “sob story” makes you appear unprofessional, which could undermine your credibility in the eyes of the funder.

2. Do describe specific educational goals and objectives. Funders want to support the end result—improved student learning—and not just the means to that end, so make sure you describe the specific learning objectives you hope to accomplish. Correlating these goals and objectives to state or local standards might further bolster your project’s credibility.

3. Don’t recycle an old proposal. Make sure your proposal specifically targets the priorities identified by the grant program you’re applying to.

4. Do describe your project clearly. You’d be surprised at how many proposals don’t even describe their projects in enough detail to give readers a sound basis for judging the projects’ value. What, exactly, will students be doing, and according to what kind of timeline? How will students use technology, how will this use of technology contribute to students’ understanding, and how will the grant money support such a project?

5. Don’t use cliches, big words, or “education speak.” The easier your proposal is to read, the more likely it is to be funded. Don’t assume that all grant readers are educators, or that they will understand what you mean by words like “metacognition.”

6. Do proofread. As amazing as it sounds, I caught many typos and misspelled words among the proposals I was reading. How can you be trusted with the funder’s money, if you can’t be trusted to spell all the words in your proposal correctly?

7. Don’t make technology an add-on to an existing project. Successful proposals describe projects in which technology is an integral component, not just an add-on to jazz up a traditional lesson plan. In other words, is technology necessary to achieve your project’s desired outcomes?

For example, which proposal do you think is more likely to be funded: one in which students use concept mapping software such as Inspiration to visually represent a poem, or one in which students use global information systems software to track and model the migration patterns of local fauna? It could be argued that the poetry project can be accomplished without the use of technology—but technology is an integral part of the science lesson.

8. Do be creative. Generally, funders are looking to fund model programs that haven’t been tried before. What you’re doing in your classrooms might be very good—but is it any different than what other teachers are doing in their own schools today?

Proposing a unique project, in which technology is a necessary means to educationally sound goals, will propel your grant application to the top of the pile. n